Thursday, August 30, 2012

mauricearchibongtravels: CCTV camera should cover every hotel - NTDC boss

mauricearchibongtravels: CCTV camera should cover every hotel - NTDC boss

CCTV camera should cover every hotel - NTDC boss

CCTV camera should cover every hotel – NTDC boss

In furtherance of concern for tourists’ security and welfare, the Director General of Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Otunba Olusegun Runsewe has called on hoteliers and other hospitality sector operators to install close-circuit television cameras on their premises.

Speaking with journalists in Abuja last Monday, August 27; Otunba Runsewe pointed out that the unraveling of those behind the gruesome murder of Miss Cynthia Osokogu, a post-graduate student of Nasarrawa State University; by her Facebook “friends” in a Lagos hotel; was another proof that installation of CCTV in hotels was necessary.

While commending all the security agencies that tracked down the alleged killers of Miss Osokogu for their quick response in apprehending the suspects, the NTDC boss, however, observed: “But for the CCTV, it would have been almost impossible to trace the suspects, who are now being held by the police”, observed the NTDC boss; who went on to remind hoteliers to register their premises with the NTDC as required by Law. Speaking further, the NTDC helmsman revealed; “from NTDC investigations, only four of the five hotels (names withheld) patronised by the alleged killers are registered by the Corporation”.

While stressing the importance of hotels registration as this would enable the Corporation keep tab on each hotel for proper supervision, Runsewe added: “We put all registered hotels in a database and on our website for prospective guests to know the credible ones available”.

Keen to reassure that Nigeria is a safe destination for domestic and foreign tourists, the NTDC chief pointed out that some criminals have been discovered to be hiding under the camouflage of hotel business to carry out illegal businesses. Runsewe reminded that many hotels were yet to register with the NTDC, and considering the risk posed by such anonymity; he promised that the NTDC would work with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to get the details of the profile of all hotels and hospitality-related outfits and the CV of the proprietors.

“They use their hotels as decoy”, Runsewe observed, while warning that such hoteliers would soon be exposed and their identities would be forwarded to relevant security agencies. Concluding, he remarked: “Some try to go the Corporate Affairs Commission only, even; when they know that they should not start such businesses without NTDC’ approval. As we have all now come to realise, hotel registration is a must and we are working with CAC along this line”.


Thursday, August 23, 2012



‘Expect more American tourists in Nigeria’

Pic 1.

Nigerians have been told to expect a boom in the number of American tourists visiting Africa’s Giant in the Sun. This came to light during a chat between a team of Nigerians on a tourism road show in the United States and an official of a US television network based in Los Angeles, State of California.


Speaking during a tete-a-tete with a visiting delegation of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), led by Otunba Olusegun Runsewe; Mr Mark Walton of African Channel, an intercontinental TV station, revealed that Nigeria would soon experience an unprecedented boom in tourists traffic from the United States, following reports that more than 70 percent of African-Americans have discovered that their roots lay in Nigeria.


According to Mr. Waltson, the current trend in Europe and America is that countless people desirous of unravelling their behavioral pattern resort to DNA test to really understand who they are and where they forebear came from. And, the results of the majority of such texts have proven that majority of African-Americans are of Nigerian ancestry.


Walton went on to add that many African-Americans that went for DNA examination of their roots, were not only pleasantly surprised to discover that the results were in synch with the Nigerian gene; but, also proud that their ancestors hailed from the most populous Black nation on earth and that Nigeria is also blessed with phenomenal wealth just waiting to be tapped.


Walton submitted that DNA testing has fostered a new wave of awareness across the United States adding that a US Senator had already confirmed that his root could be traced to Nigeria through this indubitable scientific process.


While commending Otunba Runsewe for coming to America at this time, when things are looking up for Africa, Nigeria in particular; Walton further revealed that, following this discovery by the senator, several other respectable congressmen and distinguished personalities had also gone for DNA test; only to discover that most of them had their roots in Nigeria.

Pic 2.

Corroborating Walton’s assertion about the relevance of DNA tests by African-Americans to possible influx of US tourists to Nigeria, Mr Jim Holden, President African Travel Association (ATA); observed that requests for information on Nigeria by African-Americans have surged since the DNA issue popped up.


In the same vein, Mr Stephen Richer of the US National Travel Association, the umbrella body for US Travel Trade, also revealed that demand for tour packages to Africa, especially Nigeria; has risen significantly, following the DNA test fever in America. Mr. Richer, who also commended Otunba Runsewe for taking Nigeria on a US Road Show; urged the Nigerian government to gird its loins by beefing up infrastructure and and setting in motion other strategies to attract home-sick African-Americans yearning to visit Nigeria.


Taking over the microphone again, Walton stressed that the NTDC US Road Show and interest in African-American roots was the first time that a Nigerian government agency would be approaching the issue of its image and understanding of fundamental issues, using the right people and right channel at the same time.


Concluding, Walton also remarked that through this interaction and creating of awareness, his medium has been given a deeper insight into the true story of Nigeria.

Pic 1. L-R: Dr. Babs Onabanjo, CEO, ADK Foundation; Mrs. Naomi Barber King, wife of the late Alfred Daniel Williams King, younger brother of slain civil rights icon, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr; presenting the Icon of Hope for Africa plaque to Otunba Olusegun Runsewe at Martin Luther King Centre in Atlanta, USA recently.
Pic 2. Mayor of Annapolis in Maryland, USA; Mr. Joshua Cohen, decorating NTDC DG Otunba Olusegun Runsewe with the city’s pin during a visit to the Mayor’s office.

Nigerians build International Market in Benin Republic

‘…We’ll launch it before end of Sept’
President, NIDO Cotonou Chapter, Pastor Julius Adebamibo Aderinto.

After almost 40 years, Nigerian traders have finally relocated from Mache Missebo (Missebo Market) in Cotonou, Benin Republic.


Although Marche Missebo was established long before the famed Biafra Market berthed in the Beninese economic capital, it is widely believed that Marche Missebo’s status was considerably enhanced by the arrival around 1969 in Benin Republic by Igbos fleeing collapsing Biafra.


Many of the Igbo refugees in an attempt to pick up the pieces and continue with their lives settled as traders in Cotonou, and that it how the section of Marche Missebo, where stalls owned by Igbo traders were erected came to be called Biafra Market.


Apart from the Igbos that migrated to Cotonou because of Nigeria’s civil war (1967-1970), countless other Nigerians, Igbo and non-Igbo alike, had also washed into Benin Republic as their country’s fortunes dipped due to ill-governance since the General Ibrahim Babangida-led regime, whose structural adjustment programme alias SAP effectually wiped out the country’s middle-class.


Most recently, the state of insecurity engendered by the menacing terrorist sect called Boko Haram across Northern Nigeria generally has forced millions of entrepreneurs, Hausa/Fulani and other Nigerians, to shut down their businesses and flee. Many of these victims have relocated to Benin Republic, partly because it is the nearest to their home country along the West Coast.


Expectedly, as more Nigerians poured into Cotonou, the value of real estates around Missebo and other parts of the city rose as demand had now exceeded supply. Hotels in the Missebo and Tokpa Market neighbourhoods of Cotonou are often fully booked because of the flood of Nigerian traders, importers and even smugglers.


The long and short of it all is that Missebo Market quickly waxed into the Mother of All Markets in Cotonou for most Nigerians. It wouldn’t be long before problems of over-crowding set in.


Then came encroachment on public space like sidewalks, with traders setting up their wares everywhere. Indeed, a section of Cotonou’s commercial vehicle operators began setting up motor parks in hitherto purely residential neighbourhoods. To make matters worse, thieves also entered the picture.


To sanitise Missebo Market, local police frequently stormed the emporium; sometimes, they were invited by disputantes but the police raids were also spontaneous and unexpected.


Traders began to complain of being harassed. There were also rumours of routine extortion. Then public protests began. In the process some Nigerians lost their lives and many were arrested and detained for weeks.


As a permanent way out of the frequent alleged harassment, Nigerians in Cotonou decided to relocated. And, voila! That, in a nutshell is how Nigeria International Market evolved.


Located in Seme Podji, shortly before Porto Novo Roundabout, along the Seme-Cotonou route, Nigeria International Market will be launched before the end of September, this year; according to the President of Cotonou Chapter of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO), Pastor Julius Aderinto Adebamibo.


During an exclusive chat with mauricearchibongtravels at Gare routiere Internationale Jonquet in Cotonou on Tuesday, 21 August, 2012; this NIDO President revealed that the new market falls within the precinct of Mairie Seme and that, hopefully, alleged harassment suffered at Missebo was now a thing of the past.


He further revealed that over 5,000 application for stalls had been received, whereas 2,700 sheds are available. To address this situation, where demand far outstrips supply, Pastor Aderinto said, priority would be given to those that owned sheds at Missebo before allocation to other traders were made.


With 5,000 applicants scrambling for 2,700 sheds, it didn’t come as a surprise; when Aderinto declared that registration of traders at Nigeria International Market had since closed. “That exercise ended more than two weeks ago (some time in early August)”, he remarked.


Unlike the situation at Missebo, the Nigeria International Market stands on 3 acres of land leased to the Nigerian community for 99 years; revealed Aderinto, who added that the lease was a renewable one. He went on to assure that permanent structures would be erected and that the makeshift sheds on ground were necessary to save Nigerian traders from suffering since they were sacked from Missebo roughly a year ago.


“We have 2,700 sheds on ground now and we had to put up these temporary stalls to help our people. Since they were forced to leave Missebo last year and have had to suspend their business, life has become very hard for too many of them. In fact, there are numerous instances, where the children of some of our people that came here as traders were sent out of school over non-payment of tuition fee”, explained the NIDO chief, while adding that work on the construction of permanent structures will commence as soon as the market began running.


The Cotonou NIDO president said the market would have begun functioning by now, but for the absence of a toilet and source of water. “We believe that the Mairie (Local Government) will eventually extend public electricity to this new market site, which is virgin land; but, for now, we plan to install an electricity generator to power the place.


“We are also putting up public conveniences like toilet. We also need a borehole for water. As I said, the site is virgin land; so, basic infrastructure are necessary before the market can go into operation. This is why we need help”, he mused.


Aderinto again: “Everything we have been doing has been funded from our purse. We hope the Nigerian Government will come to our rescue. The belief is popular that there are over two million Nigerians living in Benin Republic now. This means that Nigerian Government should take our welfare into consideration. Many times, we have had crises here and the embassy could not help us. Why are they (the embassy) here, if they cannot help us?”


Concluding the NIDO President said: “I hope that, given the calibre of our new ambassador here, things will improve. The Nigerian Government must take us serious because we are closest to home and can make the difference during an election.”

Friday, August 17, 2012

mauricearchibongtravels: Amb Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin: Nigeria’s 10th envoy to Benin Republic assumes duty

mauricearchibongtravels: Amb Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin: Nigeria’s 10th envoy to Benin Republic assumes duty

Amb Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin: Nigeria’s 10th envoy to Benin Republic assumes duty

Amb Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin: Nigeria’s 10th envoy to Benin Republic assumes duty

Monday, 6 August, 2012 marked a significant milestone in the diplomatic tie between Nigeria and her immediate neighbour to the West, Benin Republic. It was on that date, Nigerian Embassy Cotonou had a new ambassador, after more than 16 months under the leadership of three different Charges d’Affaires.

It could be recalled that the immediate-past Nigerian Ambassador to Cotonou, Mr. Lawrence Olayiwola Akindele, passed on in the early hours of 3 February, 2011 and that this mission faced several challenges arising from the absence of a substantive envoy there. Cheeringly, however, Nigeria’s latest envoy, Ambassador Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin, formally assumed duty in Cotonou on 6 August, 2012.

Until his appointment as Ambassador to Benin Republic, Mr. Obisakin was Director, Foreign Service Inspectorate (FSI) at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja. Ambassador Obisakin was one of 93 new ambassadors, who got their Letters of Credence from President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday, 12 June, 2012 at Aso Villa in Abuja. Interestingly, Amb Obisakin also doubles as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Although Obisakin had practically relocated to the economic capital of Benin Republic some four weeks earlier, the gentleman was at best Ambassador-Designate since he had not yet presented his papers; until Monday, 6 August, 2012. So, finally, after some 16 months without a substantive envoy; Nigerian Embassy Cotonou now has a full-fledged ambassador in the person of 55-year-old Mr. Obisakin.

Born on 27 February, 1957 in the Yoruba spiritual hub of Ile-Ife, Osun State in South-western Nigeria; Ambassador Obisakin is married to Pastor (Mrs.) Cecilia Gbemisola Obisakin. The couple’s union is blessed with four children. Accompanied by his wife and clad like her in similarly resplendent Aso-Oke woven in Nigeria’s Green-White-Green national colours, Ambassador Obisakin presented his Letter of Credence to President of Benin Republic, Dr. Thomas Boni Yayi on Monday, August 6 in Cotonou.

Alhaji A. A. Lawwal and Mr. Ernest Monn, Minister II and Head of Chancery respectively at Nigerian Embassy Cotonou as well as Pastor Adebamibo Aderinto, President, Cotonou Chapter of Nigerians in Diaspora Organisation (NIDO); were among the privileged few that accompanied the envoy to the Beninese Presidency.

The event featured several trappings of a state visit, such as excellent renditions of the National Anthem of Benin and Nigeria by the military band of the host country as well as a guard of honour at the Presidential Villa for Ambassador Obisakin, who is Nigeria’s 10th ambassador to neighbouring Benin Republic since the former French colony, known as Dahomey until 1975; attained independence on 1 August, 1960.

Nigeria’s mission opened in the Beninese economic capital in the early 1970s and Ambassador D. D. Obunge was the premiere envoy. Ambassador Obunge worked at Nigerian Embassy Cotonou from 1974 to 1976. Obisakin succeeds the late Ambassador Lawrence Olayiwola Akindele, who passed on, while on active service.


Although His Excellency Dr. Yayi Boni was meeting Obisakin for the first time in the latter’s new capacity as Nigeria’s Ambassador to Cotonou, there are grounds to believe the duo had met in the course of work in previous times; when Obisakin served as Presidential Interpreter to various heads of states and Nigerian ministers.

Today, Obisakin has risen in stature; and, so has President Yayi Boni for the enviable transformations he has brought and continues to bring to Benin Republic since assuming the office of Chef de l’Etat.

If the warmth and body language that characterised the meeting between President Boni Yayi and Ambassador Obisakin could be taken for mutual preparedness to consolidate on the existing brotherly ties between Nigeria and her immediate neighbour to the west; then more positive strides could be expected in the coming months and years.

It is not for nothing, Beninese Coat of Arms carry the words Fraternite, Justice, Travail. These words, which could be taken for Brotherhood, Justice and Industry characterise the affection between Nigerians and our kiths and kin to the west. Unofficial figures put the population of Nigerians living in Benin Republic at over 1million and colossal volume of trading (albeit largely informal) daily take place between nationals of both countries.

Moreover, aside being contiguous neighbours, geographically, as well as fellow members of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States); Beninese and Nigerians are inextricably bound by ancestral ties. Evidently, therefore, whether in consideration of Africa or Citizen Diplomacy or Economic Diplomacy as Centrepiece of Nigeria’s Foreign Policy; Benin is very important to Nigeria and vice versa.

Nonetheless, the population of Nigerians living in Benin Republic or passing through to other West African countries is believed to be in the millions. Given the diverse occupations, backgrounds and motive of some of these migrants and wayfarers; it would be naïve not to expect occasional eruption of certain issues.

Indeed, the frequency of such unwholsesome developments could overwhelm the Consular Desk of any nation’s diplomatic mission; and, Nigerian Embassy Cotonou is not an exception in this regard.

Therefore, even when armed with academic and professional competences as well as patriotic zeal and passion for the job; if faced with inadequate funding, a mission’s effort could fall far short of expectations. It is common knowledge among watchers of Nigeria’s Foreign Service that the country’s missions often cannot succour distraught compatriots abroad due to impecuniosities.

The issue of funding is therefore crucial to the proper execution of the task of any Nigerian Embassy, including the one in Cotonou. This cash-strapped situation of Nigeria’s embassies came to light during a visit by members of the House of Representatives’ Committee on the Diaspora to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Abuja. Speaking inside the Conference Room of the MFA during the legislators’ call, the Director of Consular Services, Amb MaiKano had lamented: “As of now, there is no dime voted for Consular Services”.

While explaining that cash crunch is the primary reason many distressed Nigerians cannot find succour from their embassy, this director of consular services had practically emphasised that, there is no vote dedicated to assisting any distraught Nigerian in some foreign land. According to this diplomat, there is a need to change the perception among Nigerians that their embassy is loaded because, “There is no money kept at any embassy for distressed Nigerians”.


NB: For CV of Amb Lawrence Olufemi Obisakin, visit:

mauricearchibongtravels: Igbo Cultural Day holds in Ghana Sept 15

mauricearchibongtravels: Igbo Cultural Day holds in Ghana Sept 15

Igbo Cultural Day holds in Ghana Sept 15

‘Our culture is under threat, we must preserve it’

Chief Chukwudi Jude Ihenetu, CEO of Chi-Bert Group of Companies.

The Igbo race has suffered several setbacks over the centuries. Perhaps, the earliest of these was the ravage caused by the slave trade during which Igbo youth were particularly sought after because of their virtues, such as strength, irrepressible spirit, industry and creativity.

In the beginning, Igbo villages were ravaged by slave raiders, who took countless able-bodied youth away, thus depriving such communities of the contribution to progress that victims of slave traders would have made; left in situ. But, like the proverbial silver-lining to every cloud, the despicable slave trade threw up enviable proofs of the avaerage Igbo’s attributes.

Some of these can be gleaned from the lore of Olaudah Equino, who rose from slave boy into a free man and morphed into a learned and respected figure in the Western world.

Such is the importance of the Igbo to the world that the Frontier Culture Museum in Virginia (FCMV), United States; decided to build a model Igbo village in that New World country. Reason: Studies revealed that a countless number of slaves that helped to develop that corner of America were Igbos.

The Rt. Hon Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria’s first indigenous Governor General; Reverend Fr. Emmanuel Tansi, the only Nigerian to be beatified by the Catholic Church; Sir Louis Ojukwu, businessman extraordinaire; Maths genius Prof. Chike Obi, Dr. Ben Enwonwu, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, a former Secretary General of the Commonwealth; literary guru of world renown Prof. Chinua Achebe; Dr. Alex Ekwueme, a former Vice President of Nigeria, renowned architect, businessman and accomplished politician; and Dr. Kingsley Ozumba (KO) Mbadiwe, born in today’s Imo and fondly remembered for his use of English, such as A man of timbre and calibre as well as When the come comes to become.

And, who could forget Mrs. Margaret Ekpo or the galantry of the ladies involved in the 1929 revolt that came to be more popularly dubbed Aba Women’s Riot? I decidedly recalled the correction by Dr. Chike Dike, a former Director General of the National Gallery of Art (NGA) that the word Riot derogates the brave action of the women, whose conduct should be seen as revolt, instead of a riot, which connotes uncoordinated mob action.

Ostensibly, Igbo lands have produced great men and women, whose lives are worthy of emulation. To date, the Igbo cosmos continues to spawn great minds; and, the historic academic feat recorded by any black student ever at US Ivy-League Harvard University was achieved by an Igbo-born alumnus; attests to this.

Unfortunately, however, Igbo lands have also virtually become stigmatised for kidnappers, armed robbers, fake drug dealers et cetera. Where did it all go wrong? As if this degeneration was not bad enough, Igbo culture is also facing the threat of extinction.

It is worth noting that unlike the Yoruba or Hausa speaking community, which boast Alaroye or Gaskiya repectively, there is no popular newspaper, even periodical, for Igbo readers written in their mother-tongue.

The growing decline of Igbo language was vividly brought to light by Onya sunna Engli-Igbo, a hybrid of English and Igbo languages, which is what most Igbo youth of today speak; having lost touch with their culture. If such is the situation of Igbo culture at home, the predicament of countless Igbo youth born not only outside Igbo land in Nigeria but in foreign lands; is best left to a conjecture.

Interestingly, almost every offspring of Igbo-born parents living in Accra speak the local lingua franca, Ga or Twi as well as speak, read and write English; since they attend schools in Anglophone Ghana. However, the comprehension of such children of their mother tongue is far from satisfactory. Any polyglot knows that listening is easier than speaking.

Therefore, if Igbo children born in Ghana have poor comprehension of their mother tongue; then their ability to express themselves in that language must be dismal. This is the reason the likes of Chief Chukwudi Jude Ihenetu has entered the fray. They want to teach every Igbo, including those in Nigeria and world-wide; that one can make money, while concurrently preserving one’s identity.

Speaking with mauricearchibongtravels in the Ghanaian capital recently, Chief Ihenetu said Igbo community in Ghana launched a celebration of Iwa ji in the former Gold Coast last year (2011). He said it was an excellent start, but a lot more needs to be done. He believes much would be achieved if Igbo people in Ghana had Obi ndi Igbo. Hear him: Our people need an Obi ndi Igbo.

A sort of Cultural Centre, which would serve as a Counselling Point, Research Centre, and a rallying point for all Igbos. That way, it will help to preserve our language and other aspects of culture as well as protect Igbo social and economic interests by ensuring that data are gathered concerning the population of Igbos in Ghana and how to guide each of them to respect the laws of the host country in order not to create problems for Ghanaians or the Government of Ghana, thus jeopardising the social and economic interests of law-abiding Nigerians engaged purely in legitimate enterprises.

Igbos are noted for their mercantilist spirit, and; to Chief Chukwudi Jude Ihenetu, a Nigerian living in Accra, Ghana since 1995; “There is nothing wrong with that”. To foster their wealth, Igbo people have dispersed. In every nook and cranny of the world, you’d find an Igbo. This prompted the maxim that, any stranger that arrived in some foreign land or remote village should flee immediately, should she/he discover that no Igbo was resident there.

Hear this chief: “Various social pressures forced us to leave Nigeria. We are living in peace here. Infrastructure is good and we are doing well cooperating with authorities of the host country. However, some of us do not want to lose our identity. We are fast losing our culture. Very few of our children who were born in Ghana can sustain a conversation in Igbo. Sometimes, you see two or three children, all of Igbo parents, speaking to one another in Twi or English”.

This cosmopolitan disposition is good and helps in today’s Global Village, he admits; but, it is also good for the world that every culture is protected and preserved. “This is why I want to make sure that our way of life is preserved”, Chief Ihenetu said.

Ihenetu was already 24 years old, when he emigrated from home in 1995. At this age, one’s knowledge of “ethnosyncracy” should have coalesced. However, unlike Ihenetu, tens of thousands of Igbo children in the formative age have been taken outside their homelands to work as apprenctices. And, with Nigerian businessmen increasing in their numbers in virtually every country of this world; one could say that the dispersal is likely to stop any time soon.

Now, if Nigerian-born Igbo youth that went to live in Ghana as youngsters encounter difficulty, when it comes to speaking Igbo; then knowledge of their mother tongue must be poorer still for children of Igbo parents living abroad.

Apart from the tongue itself, there is the issue of etiquette and mannerism. There is also the Age Grade arrangement that somehow fosters good citizenship thus discouraging irresponsibility and deliquency or deviance. Evidently, the absence of Obi ndi Igbo means there is no point of gravity. And, by interpretation, the people wander and are often confounded.

Chief Chukwudi Jude Ihenetu was born in Umuduroha, Amaigbo Town, which lies within Nwanghele Local Government Area of Imo State in South-eastern Nigeria. He promised that as Obi ndi Igbo in Ghana, he would ensure the establishment of a school of Igbo language in Ghana to help preserve the tongue and popularise it in the Diaspora.

“Igbo people are active participants in the economic activites of many nations of this world. And, believe me, a diplomat working in a foreign embassy in Ghana but interested in cultural studies will enroll for lessons in Igbo language. I know this. Some foreigners, whether Europeans, Koreans, Chinese are very curious and sometimes embark on studies to enrich their lives or as past-time.

So, may be we start with our Igbo children coming to learn their mother tongue during weekends and from there it will grow. We also plan to hold forums at intervals to inform and entertain Igbo people in Ghana and members of the host nation, who are interested”, Ihenetu revealed.

Ihenetu again: “At some of these forums, Igbo children would meet more and interact more. As things are now, our children are scattered across countless institutions; but, with an Ama Obi Igbo on ground; everyone will come together, even if it is purely for entertainment.

“Such interaction will give these children more opportunities to exercise their knowledge of our language. That way, it will be easier for them to acquire the tongue. They will also be regularly tutored to be law-abiding, dilligent and industrous because these are virtues for which Igbos prided themselves”.  

There’s a joke within political circles that, Nigerians would suddenly find themselves acephalous, were every other ethnic group to agree that the Igbo should produce the country’s next president. Those that throw up this cruel parody are ever quick to remind us of the Igbo phrase: Igbo amaghi Eze (The Igbo know no king).

“If the party asks the Igbo to ‘Give us a flagbearer’, over one million Igbos will come forth”, was the cynical remark of a non-Igbo during a private roundtable about the fate of our country.

However, it must be realised that; whereas some Igbo communities, such as Ibuzo (believed to have derived from Ndi Igbo bi n’zo) in Delta State operated a sort of confedracy; the people of nearby Onitsha across the River Nigeria, had a highly revered and powerful central authority, a sovereign in their Obi.

For centuries, Ibuzo was ruled by a conclave made of dozens of the oldest man in each clan, called Diokpa. Call it gerontocracy if you like, yet it worked for the indigenes for centuries. And, talking about Onitsha, their kith and kin in Asaba, on the other side of the Niger River, also boast a monarch; Asagba of Asaba. Interestingly, Asaba; capital of Delta state is a walking distance from Ibuzo and nearer than Onitsha.

Across Accra, we encountered numerous Igbo youth and countless elderly folks that spoke fondly about Ihenetu. But, this is not to say that every Igbo in Accra compulsorily wants him as their king; remember, after all, that Igbo amaghi Eze. Indeed, the man’s worst critic expressed his worry, thus:

“Look, the work of a king is different from running commercial ventures…Is it not Ihenetu you are talking about? My friend, I know him better than you. Ok, he works very hard and has plenty of money and often helps people. But, if you know the number of company that man runs, you would realise that he will not have time”.

When mauricearchibongtravels submitted: “Sir, could you give us some idea of Chief Ihenetu’s companies?” This is what the old man had to say: “I don’t know which town you come from in Nigeria, but; in my home-town, the king is supposed to stay inside his palace. If you doubt me, go and ask our people: Chief Ihenetu is owner of Chi-Bert Group of Companies Ghana. Chi-Bert is like an octopus. He get hand everywhere o, said the old man in pidgin.

Continuing on a more serious note, he added: “He is too young and his Chi-Bert has many subsidiaries: from construction company, caterpillar hiring company, Mothercare, Farms, Aluminium, Oil and Gas. Name it, Chi-Bert is there; now, can such a busy man play king?”

When we put these to Ihenetu, he countered that any such critic had forgotten that the world has moved on. “Chief Ihenetu is only 41 years old, whereas there are countless Igbos living across Ghana; who are much older than that.

Therefore, we couldn’t help but ask Chief Ihenetu; if older Igbos living in Ghana would not consider him too young to be their Eze? “Even the egg of a butterfly metamophoses into larva before pupa and eventually attains adulthood.

So, I want to create a second home for Igbo people in Ghana. The hosts are very civilised and law-abiding. We (Igbo) share a lot in common with Ghanaians but we still do not want to lose touch with our culture”, Ihenetu said.

He pledged to facilitate the identification of talented and young Igbo youth roaming the streets of Ghana in search of livelihood; and, contribute to helping those willing to return home to start a new life. Ihenetu also pointed out that a large number of Igbo living in Ghana could be described as wiz kids. He said he knows some of these ones and that they need to be formally identified and encouraged to return to Nigeria and help in developing their motherland.

“Today, many young leaders lead some of the great nations of this world. President Barack Obama of United States did not get into office in his old age, so; to me, age is not an issue. Hear him: “Leadership is not about age. Even the Bible teaches us about the wisdom of King Solomon, who ascended the throne as a young man. We also know that Methuselah lived to almost 1,000 years but he is not credited as the world’s wisest man.

“So, at 41; I believe I am neither too young nor too old to be Eze. I should remind that we have had a king in Nigeria that was crowned, when he was only six years old. Coronation is a divine thing, people gather but it is all from God working through human beings. This is why Igbo people in Ghana have been addressing me as Eze for more than 10 years, now.

“So, my installation on September 15 as part of Igbo Cultural Day is simply formal endorsement of the title”, he mused; adding that last year’s celebration of Iwa ji in Accra was a major turning point. “Now, we want to take things further”, he declared. “Igbo culture is not only about feasting, singing and dancing. There are more to engage our youth. We should keep them busy with language and craft-making for example”, he expatiated; adding, “This is why we have concluded plans to upgrade this year’s New Yam festival for Igbos in Ghana to Igbo Cultural Day.

“The celebration will take place on September 15 and will be attended by distinguished personalities both Nigerians and Ghanaians. From Nigeria, participants are coming from seven states in Nigeria, where Igbo is the mother tongue; some governors will join us in Ghana to celebrate with us and encourage Nigerians living abroad to remain good ambassadors of their race and home country”, he added.

To crown it up, Ihenetu declared enthusiastically: “A number of First Class traditional rulers from Igbo settlements have agreed to travel here to bless our noble intention”.

As to which of these sovereigns were being expected, Ihenetu said he would rather not reveal the identity of such monarch at this point. “But, a pleasant surprise awaits everyone that joins us on September 15 to celebrate Igbo Cultural Day in Ghana, I can assure you”, he concluded.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

mauricearchibongtravels: Cross River: The best just got better

mauricearchibongtravels: Cross River: The best just got better

Cross River: The best just got better

Enviable allurements now available at the click of a button
Check this out: Experience Cross River web site.
Photos: MAURICE ARCHIBONG. All Rights Reserved

Last week, hundreds of state officials and tourism practitioners as well as enthusiasts, who converged on the Conference Hall of Transcorp Metropolitan Hotel in Calabar were treated to the launch of Experience Cross River, a marketing strategy to further project the allurements of Nigeria’s Numbero Uno destination.
Select Breakfast offerings at the Tinapa Lakeside Hotel.

The exercise featured, among others, the unveiling of a portal and website to make preparation for a visit to Cross River easier than ever before. Yes, today, the prospective tourist can book an air ticket, hire a taxi, and get hotel reservation and so on, all by the click of a button thanks to Experience Cross River, which is a partnership between Cross River State Government and critical stakeholders in the private sector.
L-R: Mr. Odinaka Anumba, Mr. Ikechi Uko and Mrs. Clara C. Braide.

Interestingly, like new wine that must be put in new bottle, hoteliers and other service providers across Cross River State also have to be pragmatic, they must be smart. They must move with the times, akin to the digital strategy they have adopted to develop their tourism sector.
A section of the audience during the launch of Experience Cross River inside Transcorp Metropolitan Hotel, Calabar.

In particular, hoteliers have been advised to be friendlier with room as well as service tariffs. These rates must be flexible and dynamic, and could go up during peak periods or be lowered in the low season to enable those that could not visit during Calabar Carnival, for example, also enjoy the Cross River Experience. This is the practice in every part of the world.
Lunch at Chinese Restaurant inside The Mirage.

The result, after roughly two-year survey of Nigeria’s cultural and tourist attractions, listed (purely in alphabetical order) the country’s seven must-see sites, as Benin Moat (Edo State), Idanre Hills (Ondo State), Kano Ancient City Wall and Gates (Kano State), National War Museum, Umuahia (Abia State), Obudu Mountain Resort (Cross River State), Osun Grove, Osogbo (Osun State) and Sukur Cultural Landscape (Adamawa State).
One of the dancers of the cultural troupe, whose performance contributed to the thrill that characterised the launch of Experience Cross River.
These seven sites, which this writer fondly calls Nigeria’s Fantabulous Septet, are officially tagged Naija 7 Wonders and it came as no surprise that Obudu Mountain Resort in Obanliku Local Government Area of Cross River State made it into the list.

However, Cross River State also boasts Agbokim Falls, Bakor (Alok) Monoliths, The Calabar Carnival and National Museum inside The Old Residency; Calabar. In other words, five or 20 per cent of Nigeria’s 25 must-see attractions are located within Cross River State.
Two of the pretty faces among the traditional dancers.

Add to these sites, the famed gastronomic prowess of the Efik woman, the uncommonly high level of personal and public hygiene consideration of the average Cross River folk as well as the state’s vernal ambience and you have a dream destination.
Male members of the same ensemble, whose "Rhythmatism" inspired the dancers.

This must explain why Cross River has morphed into Nigeria’s tourism Mecca. Such has been the influx of visitors over the last 10 years that, Calabar; the Cross River State capital, has witnessed a mushrooming of lodges. Indeed, the rate at which new hotels are springing up over Calabar is so rapid, you almost can’t keep count.

Such is the prime of place of tourism in Cross River State, “That any government, which attempts to hurt tourism will lose the next election in Cross River”, according to Mrs. Obioma Liyel Imoke, wife of Governor Imoke.
L-R: Ikechi Uko (standing), while presenting his lecture; Nkereuwem Onung, Odinaka Anumba, Charles Ogar and Michael Williams.

To be candid, few words can truly capture the galloping growth of the tourism industry in Cross River State. But, monumental, phenomenal and astronmical all fit the bill; for, Cross River today boasts over 260 hotels; whereas less than 10 hotels could be found across this state some 20 years ago. Assume that, on average, an inn offers 15 rooms; this means that from barely 150 rooms, Cross Rivers now has over 4,000 rooms!
Mr. Charles Ogar (left) with Barrister Anglibi Ogar.

Interpretation: The need for more workers, both core technocrats and ancillary personnel, triggers employment. Evidently, the tourism industry has generated employment for hundreds, if not thousands of workers over the last 10 years.

However, much as the numerous recently-open hotels could be taken as endorsement for Cross River’s tourism potential; their plethora also portends challenges. When supply exceeds demand, competition becomes even stiffer and prices are forced down.
Mrs. Affiah flanked by Mr. Uko (left) and Mr. Onung.

Reduction in prices could sometimes mean a drop in quality of service and unsatisfactory service quality in turn could engender reduced patronage, consequently triggering job losses as entrepreneurs in an attempt to cut losses or maximise profit resort to trimming the workforce.
L-R: Wale Olapade, Okorie Uguru, Ikechi Uko, Mrs. Vida Ekeng-Ita, Renn Ofoegbu, Odinaka Anumba and Nkereuwem Onung in front of Chinese Restaurant at The Mirage.

So, stakeholders are neither carried away by the hotel glut nor resting on their oars following the state’s staggering successes in growing tourism, going by the almost unimaginable rise in the number of lodges. If anything, stakeholders are rather sober and seem eager to truly come to grips with things; after all, growth is one thing, while development is quite another.

All these as well as projecting and marketing Cross River’s many allurements were among reasons behind the conceptualisation and eventual launch of Experience Cross River.
Jorany Hotel Lobby.

Speaking during the launch of Experience Cross River on July 24 at Transcorp Metropolitan Hotel in Calabar; Mrs. Imoke who described the partnership as a genuine effort to take tourism to the next level, also acknowledged the contribution of media practitioners, when she declared: “Without you, nobody would know what we’re doing here”.

Additionally, Mrs. Imoke also advised practitioners, especially hoteliers operating across the state; to improve on the quality of their services to ensure that Cross River State maintains its leadership position, even after competitors had also gone through the motion of upping the quality of their services, too.

The Cross River First Lady went on to warn, that; “If left to government, tourism would collapse” because the industry is private sector driven world-wide. “You need to make the prices of your hotels to comply with the various seasons of the year. If you do this, your hotel will receive more patronage, and so you make more profits”, Mrs. Imoke, who spoke through her representative, reckoned.

Across the world, the industry is private-sector driven; which is why the Cross River Government has played its part in providing the enabling environment and it was now the responsibility of investors to take the sector to that new desirable level, she intoned.

Experience Cross River was made possible by partnership among Remlords Tours and Car Hire Service, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), Cross River Hoteliers Association, Naija 7 Wonders, Aero Airlines and Arik Air.

Sponsors of Experience Cross River include Obudu Mountain Resort, Skye Bank, Transcorp Metropolitan Hotel, CMF Bank, Jorany Hotels, Crosslines Limited, Marian Hotels, Pyramid Hotels, UBA, V-ONE, Tinapa Lakeside Hotel, Jofino Technologies, The Mirage, Gomays Hotels, Global Dreams Hotel, STH Satellite Town Hotel and Channel View Hotel.
Hot, Fresh and Smoking mouth-watering delicacies shortly before we ate them up at Chinese Restaurant inside The Mirage.

Among attendants at the launch of Experience Cross River were: Mrs Elenda Osime-Dokubo, who represented Mrs. Obioma Liyel Imoke; Otunba Olusegun Runsewe, Director General of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), who was represented by Mr. Odinaka Anumba, Director, NTDC South-South Zonal Office; Mr. Michael William, Managing Director, Cross River State Tourism Bureau; Mr. Nkereuwem Onung, President, Nigerian Association of Tour Operators (NATOP) as well as Remlords’ Chairman; Mr. Ikechi Uko, Project Director, Naija 7 Wonders; Mr. Gabe Onah, Chairman, Cross River Carnival Commission; and, Mr. Charles Ogar, Chairman, Cross River State Hoteliers Association as well as CEO of Pyramid Hotels.

Other participants included Mrs. Eme Affiah of Cross River Carnival Commission; Mr. Anthony Bassey, who represented the Manager, Calabar Office of Aero Contractors; Mr. Francis Brown, General Manager of 520 Hotels; Mr. Riwo Emmanuel, Pastor Charles Effanga, Mrs. Clara Braide of Executive Travels; Barrister Anglibi Ogar, Director of Tourism, Cross River State; Mr. James Idogo, GM of Pyramid Hotels; and, representatives of Comptroller, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) in Cross River State.

The event also featured cultural performances, cutting of cake and raffle draws. And, believe it or not, Maurice Archibong won the grand prize of a Weekend for Family of Four at Obudu Mountain Resort. Winners of the three other draws were Mr. Adekunle Udom (Weekend for Two with Breakfast) at Five-Two-Zero Hotel; Mr. Akan John Odu (Weekend for Couple) at Jorany Hotel and Mr. Eyo Who Kes (Buffet for a Couple) on a Sunday at Transcorp Metropolitan Hotel.

As part of his address, Mr. Charles Ogar, Chairman of Cross River Hoteliers Association, said: “We’re intensifying efforts. We’re in the process of licensing and registration of every hotel in Cross River State to ensure that, every visitor also stays in a place that compares to the best in any part of the world”.

From Mr. Ogar, we also gathered that Cross River Hoteliers Association has grown from strength to strength in terms of membership. Hear the Cross River Hoteliers’ body chief: “Our Association was formally registered in 2007. Then, there were barely 10 members, but today; there are over 90 members. There are reasons to believe that 50 per cent of the economic activities in Cross River are hospitality-related. So, tourism is the main-stay of Cross River economy”.

Speaking further, Mr. Ogar said; “Yes, there are issues and we have challenges. We want government to push visitor-traffic, while we are ready to provide rooms. So, this initiative by Remlords and others should be applauded”.

Evidently, despite Cross River’s widely accepted position as Nigeria’s leading tourism destination, authorities of the state and key stakeholders in the private sector are determined that, even the best should be getting better.

During his speech, NATOP President Nkereuwem Onung, who also stressed that Experience Cross River partnership was much-needed intervention to move the hotel and hospitality industry in the state to the next level; added, “What brought us together is partnership.

“And, this is a partnership to package and promote the foremost and most peaceful tourism destination in Nigeria. We are the ones to drive the business forward; and so we have created a platform where people can access and book easily hotels in Cross River State online.

Experience Cross River projects the best tourism asset in Nigeria, the Obudu Ranch Resort; which is the foremost of the Seven Wonders of Nigeria, and at the same time the most developed tourism destination in Nigeria and in Africa as a whole”.

For tourism reporters/travel writers, invited to Experience Cross River; the exercise snowballed into three days of work-and-play. The journalists/media practitioners played gourmet/connoisseurs in the course of savouring Breakfast at Lakeside Tinapa, Lunch at Chinese Restaurant, The Mirage, Dinner at Five-Two-Zero and another Breakfast at Jorany, not to talk of the several treats at Le Chatteau; all in Nigeria’s famed Canaan City.

It also came to light during the event that a national campaign promoting Cross River State is billed for launch around October, this year. That campaign, we gathered, would seek to register in everyone’s mind that Cross River’s enviable attractions, sites and services are possible, appealing and available.

Interestingly, Mr. Uko, who is also the publisher of Africa Travel Quarterly Magazine (ATQ), practically stole the show through his insightful lecture, entitled The Role of Hotels in Tourism Marketing and Development: The Gambia Experience.

The original lecturer, Mr. Aliu Secka, former General Manager of Gambia Tourism; couldn’t make it to Calabar due to aviation schedule issues.

Nonetheless, Uko more than rose to the occasion and even though his presentation was extempore, gave a most illuminating lecture; further reinforcing his pedigree as a leading travel expert in Nigeria.

Drawing on his exposure to markets across the globe and decades of experience studying the tourism industry, Uko went on to say; “In every project you need to discover the risk owners. Who own the risk? Who are the risk owners in Cross River State hotel business”? He came up with the answer:

“The hotel owners”! Uko again: “The more the risk involved in a business the greater the profit. Your statistics has shown that there are over 260 hotels with 4000 rooms. With what is on the ground, from where would the visitors come to fill 4000 beds?

“Considering that only three flights come into Cross River daily, how many people do the airlines carry, and; how many of those would lodge in a hotel? Most modern travellers come by air, and this is the class of people most likely going to lodge in hotels.

“So, the hoteliers need to sit down and find out how to stimulate and increase the number of people coming into Cross River State and to their various hotels. This is the only way that you can make the hotels more efficient. Yes, 150,000 Nigerians can fly into Cross River State every year! And, about one of the most effective ways to do this is for you to market your corporate brand”.

Not surprisingly, the issue of pricing popped up at the forum. Uko’s take on this issue was: “For you to eat a meal in any hotel in Calabar at $45 (over N7,000) is too expensive in comparison with the quality of your hotels and services”.

Summarising, Uko advised: “Standardise your hotel products to comply with international standards, (and) “As hotel owners and managers, see yourselves not as competitors but as mutual workers in the hospitality industry. That’s how your partnership can work”.

To remain top cropper, Uko advised: “Discover the dynamics of your hotel business, and apply to the business. This means mastery of your businesses’ high and low seasons, and taking full advantage of them”.

On how to facilitate the arrival of more visitors, Uko opined: “Deal with the air access issue. Air access problem is not a problem that can be solved only by the hotels alone. Your association partnering with the government and other related agencies can deal with the issue”.

As regards the proliferation of hotels across the state, Uko advised: “Establish a body to regulate the rate at which hotels are being built, so that the business can remain viable and profitable; and, last but not the least; Uko added: “You have to create a brand. I expect Cross River brand to compete with MTN!”, he stressed.

Concluding, Mr. Uko advised Cross River Hoteliers Association members to adopt the Gambian hotels’ strategy to further enhance their fortunes, while also urging Cross River tourism stakeholders to be flexible and change their marketing perspective and priority as the need arose.